Worse, the classes themselves had less content than a political soundbite. "When I saw what they were passing off as college, I was appalled and mortified," Bittel says. "I'm a fabulous salesman if I believe in my product. But I was blown out of the water. I couldn't sell it anymore."

On the sales floor, she would soon go from golden child to problem student. Managers threatened to fire her. She protested that she'd excelled at EDMC's other barometers, like leadership, calls made, and conversations engaged. None of that mattered, they told her.

"'Those are just put in there because the law says we're not allowed to pay you directly,'" she recalls her boss saying. "'We don't look at those. Those don't really matter. The only thing that matters is how many bodies you bring in.'"

Barmak Nassirian, former AACRAO official: “They found a system where the pitch goes to one guy and the bill to someone else.”
courtesy Barmak Nassirian
Barmak Nassirian, former AACRAO official: “They found a system where the pitch goes to one guy and the bill to someone else.”
Iraq War veteran Chris Pantzke ran up $26,000 in debt at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
courtesy Chris Pantzke
Iraq War veteran Chris Pantzke ran up $26,000 in debt at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

Bittel wasn't the only worker feeling the pressure. A man she carpooled with would cry on the way home.

"If you weren't unscrupulous, you struggled," she says. "Half the people I worked with, their previous job was in the mortgage industry. They targeted people in that industry.... They were the ones that did the best because they were so unscrupulous."

She eventually transferred to EDMC's career placement department, where the same deceit wore a different outfit.

She was supposed to help Art Institute grads find jobs. But the school was churning out students with abysmal portfolios — if they had one at all.

She was also supposed to generate stats on how many of them found employment in their fields. The numbers were used to not only sell future students, but by accreditors in maintaining a program's standing. So EDMC, she says, was prepared to rig these stats by any means necessary.

Bittel's boss liked to say that "every student is place-able. It's all a matter of technique." This "technique," she says, involved convincing people to sign affidavits saying they were employed in their field. She witnessed cases where someone with a degree in videogame design was counted as working in his field because he sold videogames at Toys R Us. She was told to convince a Starbucks clerk that making the menu sign each day was using her graphics design degree.

Once, Bittel saw a co-worker lying on a form about a graduate's salary. The same employee showed her how to doctor e-mails so that students' replies favored the Art Institute. Both times she reported the scams to her boss. But instead of being fired, the co-worker soon received EDMC's North Star Award for exceptional performance.

EDMC is hardly alone in its transgressions. Two years ago, the feds conducted a sting on for-profit colleges, with investigators masquerading as prospective students. They tested the sales practices of 15 schools. Four encouraged outright fraud. They were all found to be deceptive.


CONGRESS SEES NO EVIL
In the age of austerity, you'd think Congress would be anxious to root out waste, especially after allowing mortgage fraud to crash the economy. But money talks loud enough to make any representative hard of hearing. So despite a 20-year history of fraud and failure, for-profit colleges appear as bulletproof as ever.

Washington's been aware of the racket since Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) held high-profile hearings in 1992, demonstrating how for-profits were recruiting students from welfare offices, housing projects, and homeless shelters — anything to get bodies through the door. They were subsequently barred by from paying salespeople based on enrollment.

It would take just a decade for Washington to eviscerate these protections. In 2002, President George W. Bush created a series of loopholes and announced that violators would no longer be punished.

Then Bush and Congressman John Boehner (R-Ohio) opened the door even wider, working to repeal a rule that required schools to educate at least 50 percent of their students on-campus. It gave birth to an online gold rush, with for-profits flooding the Internet. Last year, 6 million students enrolled.

The industry had discovered the value of paying protection money to Congress. It spent $16 million on lobbying last year alone, buying a dream team of former officials that include former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) and no less than 14 former congressmen.

"I didn't know when I got into the issue of for-profit schools that it was the best way for me to have a reunion with every member of Congress as they parade through the door, all representing these schools," says Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who's held hearings investigating for-profits. "There is so much money on the table they can afford to hire everybody."

Needless to say, Durbin hasn't gotten far with his probe. He's found some support among fellow Democrats, but not a single Republican bothered to attend his hearings.

"I don't want to hear their sermons from the mount about wasting federal money when they won't even take a look at these obscenely subsidized for-profit schools," he says. "If they were talking about food stamps, they would cut people off in a second for this level of fraud. This is a wasteful expenditure of hard-earned consumer dollars to some of the wealthiest people in America, and that has to come to an end."

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12 comments
argosywhistleblower
argosywhistleblower

TO my Attorney: Before we go any further, I wanted to make sure you both know a little about me and how vital my experience was with Argosy. I wanted to take a moment today to clarify something about my case. Something I neglected to mention. I wanted to mention the true victims of this fraud. I want to spend a moment telling you about my Patients. I want to tell you both how much they meant to me and how deeply wounded I am as their Doctor to no longer be able to reach out my hand and offer hope. I can't express in words how life giving it was to be a Therapist and Evaluator. Every day of my life since departing my field I have wondered how they faired. I wondered if anything or anyone came along and gave them the tools they needed to move forward with their lives. I wondered if anybody stopped to make sure they were being cared for. I sat at home and wondered. I said goodbye to psychology in 2009. I wanted to try to reach people with my words. I chose writing and have nine bestselling Kindle books. But, I always wondered what might have been. I left my field reluctantly. I left because I felt like my voice had been silenced. I felt like I could never escape the clutches of my graduate school and the insurmountable debt it left me in. I thought the only way I could ever hope to reach out to help those in need was through my writing. I thought maybe I could help that way instead. I am happy to report success as I have sold thousands of books (3,284 last year). But, I always dreamed of what might have been had I stayed. I began therapy in 2007 and go once a week. I have tried to practice what I preached to those in pain. And, I am happy to report success. I have moved on to other ventures. I have been developing a Carcinoid cancer charity since 2011. I have posted 360 videos to raise awareness for this rare cancer which my Aunt suffers from. I plan on transitioning to this endeavor permanently. But, I always wondered what might have been had I stayed. I wondered about them. My Patients. And, to find out the school I trusted to guide me to helping those people in pain was a fraud is the most shameful, humiliating, and painful revelation as one could ever imagine. I want to tell you that no matter what happens with this case, I will never let them have the joy, hope, and promise I tried my best to impart to those under my care. They may hide behind clauses and laws but they can never touch that part of me. They may ruin me financially and shame me to my colleagues. But, at least, I will retain that joy from reaching out with hope to those in need. Respectfully, ArgosyWhistleBlower

argosywhistleblower
argosywhistleblower

Update: launched facebook page today. Less than four hours later, I have spoken to seven students. One from Maine, one from Arkansas, one from Arizona. All online students. Seems like they have it worse than those of us who had a campus to go to. They are given the run around. Confirms my resolve. Get at us on facebook: "Argosy Whistleblower" or twitter @AUfraud or email me argosywhistleblower@gmail.com We also need former professors/staff/recruiters willing to testify.

argosywhistleblower
argosywhistleblower

Correction- In lieu of being deemed uneducated, I hereby correct my typo. I am a Neuropsychologist, former Neuropsychology Fellow. Okay, now that I've clarified my training, let me tell you about my chat with Argosy President Dr. Garrison. I informed Dr. Garrison that I will be pursuing my legal rights to which he replied, "Can I confirm your mailing address to send the copy you requested of your student file?" In other words, he bypassed discussing my tenure at Argosy. I also spoke with Rep. Kriseman of Florida for over an hour. I then spoke with two local Consumer Fraud lawyers. I am happy to report my decision to find and assist ALL Argosy victims. If we can join forces, we can do something. So, if you know anyone who got duped, have them contact me.

argosywhistleblower
argosywhistleblower

Attention ALL Argosy students/grads: if you would like to discuss your eligibility for a class action suit contact me at argosywhistleblower(at)gmail(dot)com I am a former Neuropsycholgy Fellow & grad determined to recoup our costs. For all others, please know the Bay Area campus wears the crown in terms of ripping people off. I was a clinic Supervisor at Argosy for four years. I was made to complete THREE practicums! The lady profiled in the article only had to do two & she is headline news? Look no further than Alameda if you want to see corruption in action.

trubluamerican
trubluamerican

It's so disturbing, that these vicious schemes to defraud hardworking citizens, are being created by members of society's elite, who have powerful political and economic connections at the highest level,  of both political persuasions.

wakeup
wakeup

Wake up Kiddos!  It's time to put down your electronic toys and push out those in Congress who made it illegal for you to walk away from student debt, while protecting the degenerates profiting from your basic right to an education. 

If a student agrees to pay the price for an education, then at the very least, demand that educational institutions provide, a quality education that meets industry standards.

notstupid
notstupid

 @wakeup Are you proposing that taxpayers bail out students who did not practice due diligence in deciding to what school to send their money to?

argosywhistleblower
argosywhistleblower

@hollymarieperry On facebook "argosy whistleblower" on twitter @AUfraud by email argosywhistleblower@gmail.com

 
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